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December 2, 2020

Letter: History made 110 years ago in Salisbury

On a Saturday morning 110 years ago, October 29, 1910, two trains backed up to each other in Salisbury so that the rear car of each train could be close enough for a handshake and a conversation.

On one train was U.S. Vice President James Schoolcraft Sherman, who was representing President William Howard Taft and campaigning on behalf of Republicans during the midterm elections of 1910.

On the other train was Tuskegee College President Booker T. Washington, who was promoting greater educational opportunities for Blacks in North Carolina and across the South. Washington and his entourage, which included many prominent statewide Black college and business leaders, traveled to Charlotte, Concord, Salisbury, Greensboro, Reidsville, Durham, Wilson, Rocky Mount and Wilmington.

According to David Jackson’s 2008 book, “Booker T. Washington and the Struggle Against White Supremacy,” “when the two leaders learned that their railroad paths would cross, arrangements were made for this brief ‘Summit in Salisbury.’ ”

Some racial progress had been made since the uproar that resulted from Theodore Roosevelt’s 1901 White House dinner with Booker T. Washington. Even so, an abundance of caution was exhibited at this meeting of these two national figures. According to Jackson’s book, the encounter had to be confined to a handshake and a brief but symbolic exchange of political pleasantries.

The crowd that gathered to witness the “rail meeting” must have been encouraging, because Sherman accompanied Washington to Livingstone College and to the National Cemetery in Salisbury.

Booker T. Washington’s group broke a color barrier while in Salisbury. According to Jackson’s book, no other Black function had ever been held at the Meroney Theater.

Salisbury mayor A.L. Smoot and former mayor Archibald Boyden attended Washington’s rousing speech at the Meroney.

Let us remember the history that was made in Salisbury on October 29, 1910.

— Eddie Davis

Durham

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